Pacific routs Puget Sound 56-14 on homecoming weekend to cap the first 5-0 start in school history

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - A large contingent of Pacific football fans celebrates Saturday after James Berry (82) caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from T.C. Campbell in the second quarter of the Boxers' 56-14 homecoming victory over Puget Sound.The milestones just keep getting bigger for the Pacific football team.

The Boxers’ defense came up huge Saturday, pulling in five interceptions en route to a 56-14 homecoming win over Puget Sound at Lincoln Park Stadium. The victory set a new standard of excellence for a program in just its fourth season since reinstatement, putting Pacific at 5-0 on the year — and for the first time ever, dating all the way back to 1891.

Also 2-0 in the Northwest Conference, the Boxers are tied for first place along with Linfield and Willamette.

“It’s a testament to the kids,” Pacific coach Keith Buckley said about the historic start. “When they showed up here, especially the senior class, and knew nothing that was going to happen here, and all they came on was a vision and a promise of how we were going to do things.

“They’ve endured a lot to get to this point, but I think what they’ve had to endure has helped us get to this point.”

The Loggers started the game looking strong, with Austin Moore forcing a fumble on the opening drive. But after Puget Sound missed the ensuing field goal attempt, the rest of the game belonged to the Boxers.

The Pacific defense picked off Braden Foley on two consecutive plays from scrimmage in the first quarter, and Brandon Harms ran one of those interceptions back 23 yards to stake the home team to a 14-0 lead with 4:39 remaining in the period.

“I made a play on the ball, it bounced around a couple times and wound up in my hands,” Harms said. “And I was close enough to the end zone, had a convoy of teammates coming with me and we scored.”

Out of the five drives started by Pacific interceptions, the Boxers scored a touchdown on four of them. The five interceptions were the most in a single game since 1962, when Pacific grabbed seven interceptions against Whitman.

Quarterbacks P.J. Minaya and T.C. Campbell both had stellar afternoons for the Boxers. Minaya completed nine of his 10 passing attempts for 101 yards and three touchdowns, while Campbell finished a perfect 7-for-7 with 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Led by Jordan Fukumoto, the Boxers’ receiving corps averaged 11.9 yards per reception. Fukumoto caught seven passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and James Berry, a junior, had three receptions for 67 yards and a score.

“Our first two years, we were basically on the opposite end of the spectrum ... starting off 0-5, and now we just switch it around and we’re basically rolling right now, so it feels pretty good,” Fukumoto said.

The Boxers had nine different players finish the game with positive net yardage. Gunther Schultze, a senior running back, gained 44 yards on six carries, while sophomore Bronson Barretto had eight carries for 33 yards and a score in the second half.

“I’m really excited for our guys who put us in a position to win games,” Buckley said. “We’re just more experienced and physically developed. We have a lot of weapons on offense and a lot of different ways to get guys the football.”

Overall, the Boxers gained 443 yards of total offense, completely overshadowing Puget Sound’s 281 total yards. This was despite the fact that Pacific ran one less play than the Loggers did.

Junior kicker Moses Villareal-Gomez — the Boxers’ career leader in PATs and field goals made — tacked on eight extra-point kicks against the Loggers.

Each team only gave up one sack on the day, with senior defensive back Kamu Morita sacking Foley in the third quarter. Tim Hastie led the Boxers with six total tackles.

Defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro said he was “really proud of (his players). They deserve it after all of the hard times they had to go through. And they definitely worked to get themselves in this position.”

One of the Boxers’ weakest points last season was stopping big plays, and according to Yoro, the maturation of the players has a lot to do with the team’s recent success.

In the first four years since the program’s revival, the Boxers have now won their homecoming game twice. The last time was in 2011 and came against Puget Sound. In fact, since 2010, the Boxers are 3-1 against the Loggers, who did not score on the Boxers until the opening drive of the second half on Saturday.

This Saturday, Pacific travels to Puyallup, Wash., where it will face one of its stiffest tests of the season against nationally ranked Pacific Lutheran.

“That will be a great measuring stick for where our program is,” Buckley said. “Against one of the historical kind of top-tier teams in the conference, we get to see where we’re at and test ourselves with a great, great challenge.”

Memorable homecoming performance for Pacific’s standout junior receiver

For Pacific wide receiver Jordan Fukumoto, Saturday’s resounding homecoming victory was memorable for multiple reasons.

Of course, it was the Boxers’ second homecoming victory since the program’s reinstatement. And Fukumoto had two touchdown receptions — including one late in the second quarter on a highlight-worthy 45-yard throw from T.C. Campbell — and led all receivers with 103 yards.

“Afterwards, everybody’s joking around, telling me I should have fair-caught it, because it looked like a punt,” Fukumoto said of that scoring reception from Campbell, which came with 1:42 remaining in the half. “He got it there, and luckily for me, the ball just came into my hands.”

The junior wideout’s first reception accounted for the first points of the game and came courtesy of P.J. Minaya, who hit Fukumoto from 13 yards out with 5:20 remaining in the first quarter.

Perhaps most notably, though, Fukumoto’s parents, Jill Ichikawa and James Fukumoto, were there to watch their son’s standout performance. Jordan Fukumoto hails from Mililani, Hawaii, and his parents make it to one or two Pacific games per year, he said.

Last October, they attended the Boxers’ game in California against Occidental. Fukumoto broke his leg in that contest and missed the rest of the season.

“They saw that,” Fukumoto recalled. “As much as it sucks that they were there to watch it first-hand, it was also good for me because they’re always there comforting me. Family’s always first.”

For Ichikawa, not only did she get to watch her son play well and stay healthy on Saturday, but the win also was the first Pacific victory she has witnessed in person.

“Maybe this past Tuesday, she was like, ‘OK, Jordan, I want to be there first-hand to watch you guys have your first victory, so make sure you guys make it happen,’” Fukumoto said. “That’s always good motivation. You know you don’t want to let them down.”

Indeed, Fukumoto has been making it happen all season. Heading into this week’s game at Pacific Lutheran, Fukumoto is tied for first among Northwest Conference receivers for touchdown receptions (seven), and he ranks sixth in terms of yards per game (79.8) and fifth in total yards (399). Amazingly, he has achieved that on just 19 receptions.

“He works very, very hard at his craft, and it’s a craft for him,” Pacific coach Keith Buckley said. “He doesn’t just roll the ball out and start playing football. He works very, very hard at the little things that allow him to make up for kind of the physical deficiency of being a smaller guy.

“He’s got to be that much better of a route runner, that much better of a ball catcher. He sees things that a lot of college-age football players don’t see and does a tremendous job setting up the defenders and going out and getting it.”

Passing stars: Pacific’s two top-notch quarterbacks put on an impressive first-half passing performance — and their backups in the second half were not too shabby either.

P.J. Minaya and T.C. Campbell passed seemingly at will on Saturday, going a combined 16-of-17 in the first two periods against the Loggers. Minaya threw for 101 yards and three touchdowns, while Campbell reached 137 yards on just seven completions and accounted for two touchdowns.

“Our playmakers, when they get open, it’s easy for us to just put the ball on them,” Campbell said. “And our offensive line gave us so much time.”

With a bevy of talented receivers at the offense’s disposal, Minaya has gone 56-for-85 so far this season for 790 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Campbell is 31-for-50 with 594 yards and six scores.

In Saturday’s blowout, Seth Siddle-Mitchell and Warner Shaw saw considerable playing time. While they did not throw the ball nearly as much as Campbell and Minaya, they put together some decent stats of their own, going a combined 7-of-9 for 71 yards. In all, Boxers quarterbacks were a combined 23-for-26 for 309 yards and five touchdowns.

Honors for two: Based on their performances in Saturday’s rout of Puget Sound, Bryan Mills and Moses Villareal-Gomez earned two of the three Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week awards for football.

Mills, a senior safety from Imbler, earned the defensive honor for his two interceptions on the afternoon. Both picks started Pacific scoring drives. The first came late in the opening quarter, when Mills picked off a Braden Foley pass at the Loggers’ 36-yard line and returned it to the 34. Three plays later, P.J. Minaya hit Bryce Kershner for a 9-yard scoring strike to put the Boxers up 21-0.

Early in the second, Mills hawked another Foley pass at the UPS 46-yard line. Four plays later, T.C. Campbell hooked up with James Berry for a 40-yard touchdown to stretch the margin to 28-0.

Mills leads Pacific with four interceptions this season.

As for Villareal-Gomez, he was a perfect 8-for-8 on his PATs to pick up the special teams honor. The kicker out of Stockton, Calif., matched his own Boxers program record, which came in last year’s game against the Loggers in Tacoma, Wash. The junior has made 24 PATs in 25 tries this season.

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